By disciplining MPs for voting to pull children out of poverty, Keir Starmer has shown us who he really is | Owen Jones

Labour will say this is just a matter of party discipline, but it is a clear demonstration of the government’s priorities

The Labour leadership has told you who it is, over and over again: it is time to believe it. Keir Starmer has suspended seven Labour MPs because they voted to overturn a Tory policy which imposes poverty on children. Sure, another tale will be spun: that by voting for the Scottish National party’s amendment to abolish the two-child benefit cap, the seven undermined the unity of the parliamentary Labour party and were duly disciplined. But that is nonsense.

Such parliamentary rebellions are scattered through our democratic history, and are accepted almost as a convention of government. Boris Johnson suspended multiple Brexit rebels in 2019 and it was rightly seen as an aberration. He did not, for example, exact the same punishment when five Tory MPs backed a Labour motion extending free school meals in 2020. When it comes to Labour history, even Tony Blair never resorted to such petty authoritarianism. Forty-seven Labour MPs rebelled over a cut to the lone parent benefit in 1997 – none had the whip removed.

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

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